The A-10 is a conference that has gotten a lot of praise and notoriety recently from national pundits, such as Joe Lunardi. Many of you know my thoughts on the A-10 from recent posts (See yesterday’s blog, “Bracketology,” for an interesting take on Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology with regards to the A-10); however, I am by no means trying to say that the A-10 is not a great conference. I think it is a talented conference at the top that deserves 3, maybe 4 teams in the NCAA tournament this year. I think that it is the 6th best conference in the country this year, and better than the Pac-10, one of the traditional Power 6. Therefore, below I have provided my power rankings for the Atlantic 10.
1. Temple-Although the Owls are tied for 3rd in the A-10, they are still the most explosive and talented team in the conference. Prided upon active defense and timely shooting, Temple has hoisted itself into the Top 25 rankings this season with impressive performances by Juan Fernandez, Lavoy Allen, and Ryan Brooks. Temple is 19-5 with a big win over rival Villanova, but has struggled recently with losses to Charlotte and Richmond by double digits in the past 2 weeks. The Owls will still be a difficult team to beat come March if the offense can step up, but the offense hasn’t been consistent this year.
2. Richmond- The Spiders are the hottest team in the A-10 right now, with consecutive big victories over Temple and Rhode Island, and are on a 5 game winning steak and a 7-1 recent stretch. Led by Kevin Anderson, David Gonzalvez, and Justin Harper, who are all averaging above 1o points, the Spiders have an impressive out of conference resume, including wins over Mississippi State, Missouri, and Florida. It is a strong non-conference schedule like this that warrants an NCAA tournament bid, which is why in yesterday’s blog I placed Richmond over teams like Charlotte and Dayton, who have very similar resumes. In conference play, Richmond is caught in the log jam of the top 7 teams in conference, which are all within 1 game in the loss column. However, it is Richmond’s non conference success that separates it from the rest of the teams.
3. Xavier- The Musketeers have a 16-7 record on the year, but are coming off a terrible 25 point loss to Dayton. It is difficult to keep Xavier at 3rd in the A-10 after this type of loss, but this loss was the team’s first true terrible loss of the season. Xavier has lost to Wake Forest, Kansas State, Baylor, Butler, Marquette, and Temple before losing by 25 at Dayton. Led primarily by Jordan Crawford, Xavier is an explosive team that can assert itself offensively at almost any point. However, Xavier at times needs a second scorer and needs Jordan Crawford to do less. Too much reliance on him could cause problems in March, when he will be facing talented defenders each game.
4. Rhode Island- The Rams have a 19-4 record, tops in the conference. So why is the team ranked 4th in the A-10? The fact is Rhode Island’s only half respectable out of conference win on the year is Oklahoma State, and just last week the team beat Dayton for its lone decent win in conference. Therefore, Rhode Island is a classic case of a team that didn’t schedule well out of conference, posted a good record, but then had no meat within the conference to strengthen its resume. Rhode Island is a tournament team at this point in my book, but is still not a top team in the A-10.
5. Dayton- The Flyers have seemed to have found a second wind recently. After starting the season in the Top 25, playing a weak conference schedule barring a tournament in Puerto Rico, and losing 3 of its first 6 conference games, Dayton has rebounded in the past 3 games convincingly to put itself back into the bubble picture. In the past 2 games specifically, Dayton has beaten Xavier and Charlotte by 25 and 28 respectively at home. Dayton now has a 17-6 record and also finds itself in the log jam at the top of the A-10 standings, which has 7 teams within 1 game in the loss column. The difference between a team like Dayton and a team like Richmond is the out of conference schedule. Dayton, other than the Puerto Rico tournament, where the Flyers went 1-2, did not play any good teams out of conference, which is why the team finds itself 5 in my rankings.
6. Charlotte- The 49ers are a team that is difficult to understand. With a 19-6 record and an 8-2 record in conference, Charlotte tied for the lead in the A-10 right now. The thing that separates Charlotte from the teams above is its inconsistency and inability to stay competitive in games at times. Charlotte has lost 5 of its 6 games by double figures, and the only game it lost by less than double figures was by 9 points to Georgia Tech. These blowout losses include a 42 point loss to Duke, a 33 point loss to Old Dominion, a 17 point loss to Tennessee, a 12 point loss to Xavier, and tonight, a 28 point loss to Dayton. These performances are unacceptable for a team who is looking to go to the NCAA tournament, and one cannot tell me that the 7th best team in the Big East isn’t good enough to put up better fights in games than Charlotte has. Charlotte’s one decent out of conference win was against Louisville, who at the time was completely out of sorts as a team and didn’t look like it could win a game at the time. Last week, the 49ers won their lone impressive conference game against Temple. The resume simply isn’t there yet for Charlotte.
7. St. Louis- St. Louis has been the surprise team in the A-10 this year. A perennial bottomfeeder in the conference, the Billikins now find themselves with a 15-8 record and a 6-3 record in conference, also locked at the low end of the jam at the top of the conference which has 7 teams within 1 game in the loss column. Although the Billikens are not a contender for the NCAA tournament at this point, with the team’s lone impressive win over Richmond, I applaud the team’s efforts this year to put themselves in the race in the A-10.
9. La Salle
10. St. Joseph’s
11. George Washington
12. St. Bonaventure